The threads of our behavior influence us in ways of which we are often unaware. Those threads come from different spools, are of different lengths, and sometimes even of different materials.
Our parents provide the most clear-cut template for the way we go about our lives. We model ourselves on them from the day we are born, if not before.
Our peers, our schooling and the media give us the next level of understanding about what’s acceptable or not. You’ll notice that I’m not assigning value to any of these influencers; some are clearly better than others.
And the next and likely most insidious determiner of how we go about life is the society at large. By that I mean the laws, conventions, political systems, economic systems and so on.
I raise this idea of how we behave as individuals because, again, of Greece. Let’s compare and contrast Greek people and the people of China. In China, there is no social security net, so they save on average 25% of their income. You have to. Not to do so is to commit yourself to a life of poverty should personal disaster strike.
Chinese people don’t really think about retirement either. Yes, they will slow down as they age, but the concept of lolling about starting in middle age would seem fantastical to them.
And Chinese people are supremely entrepreneurial. The worldwide Chinese diaspora would be amongst the wealthiest group of people anywhere – only at home are they stymied with communist central planning.
The contrast with Greek people couldn’t be clearer. Since 1945, the sneaky message from successive governments is that you can have it all. You do not have to work particularly hard; you can have a decently-paid job; you can retire from that job on a workable pension; there will be no reckoning.
Well, the reckoning is here. Those political promises have finally reached the person who must foot the bill, which, in this case is the other Europeans. And the price they demanded was too high for Greece.
Fair enough. That’s how these things work. My point is a larger one, that there is no difference between Greek people and Chinese people, except for their expectations and behavior. The awful result of the slacker message was a long time coming, but come it did. Greek expectations were met for a long time. Greek behavior worked for a long time. Until neither worked.
We too must choose which model we want to follow, which behavior will be best for us.